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Tilting at Windmills

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April 17, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE GENERALS' REVOLT....A friend of mine who's currently serving in Iraq emails some thoughts about the recent criticism of Donald Rumsfeld coming from retired general officers:

Its very interesting to watch the retired generals coming out to speak against Secretary Rumsfeld from here. Prior to mobilization, I was a fairly vocal critic of this administration and its national security policies. But now that Im on active duty, I have to stay mute and neutral, especially in front of my soldiers.

Its also difficult to weigh the value in having these generals speak out now, versus the harm theyre doing to the principle of civilian control over the military. But I guess most of all, I have to ask the question why now? It wouldve been one thing for these generals to fall on their swords in 2003 or 2004 to literally lay their stars on the line when it counted. But now that theyre comfortably retired, and were three years into the war....I dont know what to make of these acts of dissent.

Should the generals have spoken up earlier? Should they have spoken up at all? Regardless of whether or not we agree with the generals' criticism, I think it's wise to be uneasy about something that has a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military. But has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?

Kevin Drum 1:54 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (150)

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The generals' opportunism is obvious and disgusting. Now that Rumsfeld has become such an easy target -- it's become obvious to everyone with half a mind that he's an incompetent buffoon -- they're speaking up in hopes of managing the situation to shift power over the military away from civilians and toward themselves (or rather, since these generals are retired, their buddies back in the services).

Don't get me wrong: Rumsfeld needs to go ASAP. But we need to be careful not to let the military use his incompetence as an excuse for a power grab that goes against the long-established norm of civilian control. Rumsfeld's idiocy and the desirability of civilian control are two different issues that I think the retired generals are subtlely trying to conflate.

Posted by: brenton k on April 17, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

In the United States, this type of military dissent is unprecedented. You have to go back to General McArthur and Korea to get a remotely comparable precedent. The military has been extremely restrained in its feedback for the entire duration of the Bush Administration. The fact that only retired generals have been speaking out tell us how careful the military community is trying to be regarding its civilian control. The number and kind of comments that have surfaced tell us how widespread the negative assessment of the civilian leadership is.

Or else one can take the opposite view, and ask why (-sigh-) so many generals hate America . . . .

Posted by: troglodyte on April 17, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

No doubt it's a very complicated question, but one observation is quite simple: desperate times require desperate remedies.

We have reached a point where it is increasingly clear just how dangerous the bush regime is, a point where even traditionally silent generals are speaking out for better or worse. I've said for a long time that the bush administration provides us a mixture of the worst attributes of the harding, johnson, and nixon administrations, but for sheer monarchical effrontery, there's never been anything like these thugs.

Posted by: howard on April 17, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Why now"? Iran.

Posted by: Dave on April 17, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

The generals' opportunism is obvious and disgusting.

Hogwash. It's a simple principle: you can do more good inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in. Also, like the Joint Chiefs of the Vietnam era, they probably thought -- and I can't disagree -- that a mass and public resignation would be disastrous for troop morale.

Unfortunately, the generals' assumption that their civilian masters had the slightest iota of rationality or flexibility that they could appeal to turned out to be false. To steal from Brad DeLong, not just worse than they imagined, but worse than they could imagine.

Posted by: Calton Bolick on April 17, 2006 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

But has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?

What mismanagement? I don't see any. As one officer said "My assessment from extensive and continuous contact with young field grade officers, most of which are combat arms branch, combat veterans, is that Secretary Rumsfeld is considered the finest Secretary of Defense of the last forty years. This is in addition to my "peer group", of which many of us maintain contact with each each other regardless if we are in CONUS or SW Asia."

What you're really seeing are generals who are envious of Rumsfeld's attempt at modernizing the military. They know dinosaurs like themselves who cannot understand Rumsfeld's bold vision of the military of the future will be left behind and are lashing back at him. Instead they see minor tactical mistakes by soldiers in the field and try to use it to Monday morning quaterback Rumsfeld's every decision in Iraq. I have no doubt twenty years from now when freedom and democracy reigns in Iraq, Rumsfeld will be considered one of the great military leaders of our time.

Posted by: Al on April 17, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand how this debate has been shifted from whether Rumsfeld is doing an adequate job to the "civilian control of the military" strawman. The retired generals aren't saying that the military should be run by a non-civilian; they're saying it should be run by a different civilian because, from their point of view, this one has proven incompetent. They're not dictating foreign policy, not saying whether and where the military should be used -- in other words, not meddling in the areas of concern that underlie the notion of civilian control. They're saying the military is being poorly managed. That's entirely different.

Moreover, if the dissenting ex-generals still wore their stars, civilian control might be at risk. But they don't, so it's just not. Retirees, by definition, have no control over the military.

This makes me fume. Once again, someone, somehow, has managed to take attention off of the competence question at the core of the problem and replace it with a loyalty sideshow, accusing anyone who criticizes this administration of disloyalty. It's particularly galling in this case because civilians without military backgrounds who criticize the way Iraq has been handled are often on the receiving end of sneers that they don't know enough about how the military works and should keep their ignorant liberal traps shut. Now we have lifelong career experts speaking out, and we're told that by doing so they're trodding on tradition. Who, exactly, is allowed to criticize these folks?

For pete's sake, Kevin, please don't fall for this bamboozle.

Posted by: Aaron on April 17, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

It wouldve been one thing for these generals to fall on their swords in 2003 or 2004 to literally lay their stars on the line when it counted.

Riggs did. And lost a Star for it. Of course it was a calculated risk, and he knew full measure the fallout such action would generate.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

Its also difficult to weigh the value in having these generals speak out now, versus the harm theyre doing to the principle of civilian control over the military. But I guess most of all, I have to ask the question why now? It wouldve been one thing for these generals to fall on their swords in 2003 or 2004 to literally lay their stars on the line when it counted.

This is a curious sentiment since active duty Generals protesting in public and resigning would do far more to damage the principle of civilian leadership.

Posted by: Boronx on April 17, 2006 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

A number of those generals have been speaking out for some time now - Zinni most famously ("Iraq.. Bush's brain fart" speech) - but the mainstream press just got around to paying attention when their number multiplied. Iran is indeed a probable motivation for the timing. And then there is surely the sense that the American public may at last be ready to listen.

Posted by: E.R. Beardsley on April 17, 2006 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing that has changed since 2003 or 2004 is that someone that publicly criticizes the administration is not automatically labeled as a traitor by large swaths of the public. The republicans still make that accusation, but nobody believes what they say anymore.

Posted by: enozinho on April 17, 2006 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

Boronx: correct.

There have always been retired generals speaking their minds about the current leadership of the Defense Dept. What's different now is they're saying the current leadership is TOO militaristic. That's what makes this story man bites dog, not dog bites man.

Rumsfeld just sent in a budget that gives the services everything they've ever asked for in terms of big, shiny new weapons systems. He's doing nothing real or concrete in terms of changing the way they're organized or the missions they're supposed to fight. The notion they're pissed because he's a reformer with results or whatever is bullshit.

Zinni, in particular, thinks Rumsfeld is an idiot for all the right reasons. Incidentally, when Wesley Clark offered the same kinds of criticisms during his presidential race, was he somehow undermining the principle of civilian control over the military? This is all such a giant load of Republican Central Committee crap.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 17, 2006 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

Like other posters above, I think Iran is a big motivation for retired personnel to call for Rumsfeld's head. A significant fraction of the military leadership does not want any part of conflict with Iran.

I just don't see Rumsfeld resigning/being fired any time soon. I really really hope there's no Iran attack either, but I don't see any signs that the administration pays any attention to political, strategic, or tactical reality. What's more, I think Bush's evangelical faith is sincere to the point that he believes he'll get raptured in the event of a true world war.

Posted by: Bob Violence on April 17, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

What Dave wrote: "Why now? Iran."

I don't think it is so surprising that active duty officers suck it up, and do as they are told. The military could scarcely function, otherwise.

But, we have come to the point where we have to withdraw, substantially if not totally, from Iraq.

If we withdraw from, or even just "within" Iraq, then Iran will assume hegemony over Iraq. To avoid that complete disaster, we have to do something to weaken Iran, so that our drawdown in Iraq does not result in Iranian hegemony in Iraq and much of the rest of the Persian Gulf. (Gee, I wonder why it is called that?)

Billmon explains this crazy gamble better than I can:
http://billmon.org/archives/002390.html

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on April 17, 2006 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

I believe the US is going into Iran.

With tactical nukes.

I've believed this since the Bolton UN nomination hearings. Not much new in Hersh's piece, except the military dissent.

Don't expect anything from the politicians. Sounds like even some Democrats are planning to play Iran pretty much the same as Iraq. The potential for millions of Iranian casualties is apparently an acceptable price to pay for presidential ambition.

Assuming the public, the politicians and the media continue to sleep through the impending Armageddon, we may be in for the Mother Of All Constitutional Crises.

If W presses the nuke button, will the bombs fly?

Posted by: Taylor on April 17, 2006 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

It's one thing to talk while serving. That's pretty clearly against the rules. But once you retire, you're no longer ruled by the UCMJ (military law), and you can exercise your first amendment rights. Even if it means pointing out that the President and Sec. Def. are incompetent.
The Repubs are just trying to manufacture a new way to say "shut up" or "don't listen to them" to those who disagree with them. Now, suddenly the issue is "should generals speak out" instead of "why are these guys so incompetent?"
A former general disagreed with one president so much, he ran against him. That was general McClellan, who ran against Lincoln in 1864, and could have beat him if it wasn't for Sherman and Grant's victories that year.
The law dictates a military man can't talk bad about those above him in the change of command. It makes sense. That just doesn't apply once they are out. Let 'em speak, and let the American people know that the generals think their ex-bosses are idiots.

Posted by: Ryan on April 17, 2006 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

It's easy to criticize these generals for their clarity of hindsight, but at least we could credit them for their honesty now.

As Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Sad to say, the rest of the administration adamantly stays the course, as impervious to events as ever.

Posted by: bad Jim on April 17, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

If they are retired and out of the chain of command, then are they citizens like you or I, with the same rights and responsibilities? How could they lead a palace revolt by speaking against the SoD as citizens? Are there new rules that have not been published? Let us know, Kevin.

Posted by: Dick Durata on April 17, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

Colin Powell. Too bad he never showed real leadership or courage in the run-up to invasion.

Posted by: jc on April 17, 2006 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

In the American military it is always about the next war. Criticism of the SecDef is all well and good but let's not forget who is ultimately responsible for the Iraq debacle.

Posted by: Hack's ghost on April 17, 2006 at 3:30 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's wise to be uneasy about something that has a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military.

But to what purpose, Kevin? What is the potential ulterior motive?

Posted by: Michael Roetzel on April 17, 2006 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

Slightly off topic but since we are torching strawmen:


"I think the important thing to remember here is that we haven't been attacked again at home since September of 2001." Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking of Fox News Sunday on 16 April, 2006.

Just a brief rebuttal to the Senator on this one. Prior to September 11, 2001 we had not been attacked at home since April 1995. And we had not been attacked at home by any terrorists with a foreign agenda since February of 1993.

The Clinton administration did, using investigation and police work - instead of the militarty and open warfare - foil numerous terrorist plots against our country that were in the planning/plotting stages, that were supposed to take place on our shores.

When 2013 comes and goes and we have not been attacked, then will be the time to tout our effectiveness at protecting the homeland - providing civil liberties are restored, warrantless domestic spying is discontinued, and the war in Iraq has ended.

A judicious leader would let such a milestone pass without comment, but really, what are the odds we will have one of those anytime soon? Who in their right mind would want to take the job on after these chuckleheads get through cocking it up?

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 3:37 AM | PERMALINK

This is about stopping a war against Iran, IMO. There's nothing constructive to be said or done about Iraq, as Newbold essentially says in Time. The US is there and it has to do what it can to minimize future damage, and there is no benefit in criticizing what's already been done. There are signs, like George Packer's article in the New Yorker, that the Pentagon has given up micromanagement in Iraq, and that local US military is being more effective. It's too little, too late, IMO, but there's little benefit in criticizing Rumsfeld in trying to influence policy in Iraq.

Stopping the administration from nuking Iran is a different story. If enough of an uproar can be created, then it is possible that such an action could be stopped. If military action against Iran is reversed (it's pretty clear that it is going on right now), then it will be impossible to tell if these generals' speaking up contributed to that reversal, because it may have been a bluff all along. But we need to credit their speaking up nonetheless.

But I'll tell you what irks me is that Newbold did exactly what critics say these guys should have done. He spoke up while he was on active service inside Pentagon channels. And when his advice was ignored, he retired four months before the invasion--"fell on his sword"--and kept his mouth shut. It's very difficult to figure out what people who are criticizing the generals want them to do, other than permanently keep their mouths shut, no matter what.

Posted by: JayAckroyd on April 17, 2006 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the military is ready to leak like a sieve in order to prevent war with Iran and all it takes is an intrepid journalist or two with the right contacts to use retired military personnel as go-betweens to get information.

Posted by: Anthony on April 17, 2006 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, What is your military background? Do you have one? I'm just asking, because the military has a unique culture and different values and mores than the rest of society. Those currently serving do not have the constitutional rights the rest of us do, they voluntarily give them up to serve us. That means that that freedom of speech that we prize so highly does not apply to them, from the lowliest "pinger" (so new tht you can hear the hairs pinging out of their scalps) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if you are in, you keep your mouth shut, or face the consequences. Which might include undercutting the morale of your troops. No commander wants to engage in any activity that might risk the welfare of those who serve under them, that is one of the responsibilities one accepts when one accepts a commission in the US armed forces.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

It is not a palace revolt.

They are no longer in the palace and can freely speak their minds now.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on April 17, 2006 at 3:45 AM | PERMALINK

Hi Tilli! Long time no see!

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

As Aaron pointed out, retired military generals are no more in the military than I am. They are civilians, complaining about the civilian leadership.

More worrying is the active duty generals who are talking to Hersch. Worrying in the sense that generals are trying to influence policy by talking off the record to reporters. When Clinton was president, General Powell refused to go into Kosovo, yet we didn't wring our hands over whether or not there was a coup afoot.

Posted by: KathyF on April 17, 2006 at 4:03 AM | PERMALINK

"What you're really seeing are generals who are envious of Rumsfeld's attempt at modernizing the military."

Yes, and they really wish they could be more like that guy down the block who keeps chopping off his toes in the lawn mower. Gosh, talk about cool!

Posted by: Kenji on April 17, 2006 at 4:08 AM | PERMALINK

While I completely sympathize with Kevin's friend, when the generals are speaking out just isn't remotely as relevant as why they're speaking out. I'm very suspicious of coincidences, and the idea that it's coincidental these generals are suddenly hitting the news shows at the same time the administration's plans for nuclear war against Iran are coming out just strikes me as wrong. They see a disaster looming that would make Iraq look like a picnic. They don't like it and they've become compelled to speak by circumstances. Rumsfeld is a surrogate for their alarm at what his boss is doing. They are sending Bush a message that he has to change his warmongering, apocalyptic policies and giving him a way to save face by going after Rumsfeld instead of Bush directly.
I hope your friend understands the dissidents are doing what they're supposed to do: keep their soldiers and their country out of harm's way.

Posted by: secularhuman on April 17, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

Discipline problems don't put stars on their collars. Period. And remember, these are men who stood up when all around them, others were pulling up a chair.

Why on Earth should we expect them to do less now?

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 4:19 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen: "No commander wants to engage in any activity that might risk the welfare of those who serve under them ..."

Unless, of course, those particular "commanders" happens to be Donald "Freedom Is Sometimes Messy" Rumsfeld and George W. "Bring 'Em On" Bush.

Why shouldn't retired generals like Zinni and lark speak out against such inept civilian authorities? These are truly extraordinary times, which cry out for extraordinary leadership.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 17, 2006 at 4:31 AM | PERMALINK

Donald from HI:

Touche!

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 4:34 AM | PERMALINK

McA: It isn't a "palace revolt" and Kevin has had this pointed out several times already on this thread. These men are free to criticize if they see fit - indeed, I would say they have a responsibility to do so, borne of their unique situations - they are civilians now, and their constitutional rights have been restored.

The retired Major I am going to go home and sleep with at 0730 is also speaking out boldly and vocally. But CNN doesn't come looking for quotes from retired junior officers from the US Air Force.

Let me say here that the only two generals (to the best of my knowledge) who have spoken in defense of Rumsfeld are Retired Air Force Generals. Nothing against the Air Force - I will cash their checks for the rest of my life - but the Air Force and Navy have not seen the casualties (most USAF and USN casualties have been medics, iirc) that the Army and Marines have seen in the last three years. That is because the Army and the Marines are the branches that take territory and hold onto it - by standing on it, rifle at the ready.

Perhaps this fact is why we haven't heard any Admirals speaking out?

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen:

Gen. Myers said that what the retired generals' public criticism of the Pentagon leadership is "an extraordinary breach of military etiquette."

(Sigh!) Apparently, blatantly and purposefully bullshitting the American people about ultimately what amounted to a foever shifting but still less-than-compelling rationale for war with Iraq is what passes for good manners amongst the Bush administration's many apologists.

Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove had nothing on the Bush/Cheney cartel. Whatever else I might say about them -- and I've said plenty over the last five years -- I have to give them points for sheer chutzpah. One must admit that it's rather breathtaking in its scope.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 17, 2006 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

General Shinseki spoke out while he was on active duty. Look at what happened to him; and why would any other general want to tell it like it is. If Shinseki had made any difference, it might have encouraged others. As it turns out, he just got shafted and his disagreement with Rumsfeld did nothing to change the course of the Pentagon's planning and execution of the war.

Posted by: DevilDog on April 17, 2006 at 5:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Like the CIA somehow forgetting to swear Valerie Plame's husband to secrecy with a confidentiality agreement and the Dems joining in... this is another situation where the Democratic party is acting to make a military-industrial complex a genuine reality just to score points on Bush."

Wow! What's the weather like up your own ass?

Posted by: Kenji on April 17, 2006 at 5:14 AM | PERMALINK

Al: "What mismanagement? I don't see any. ... What you're really seeing are generals who are envious of Rumsfeld's attempt at modernizing the military."

Al, Al -- I done tol' you an' tol you, pull yo' head outa yo' ass, chil'! You can' see nothin' up inside there!

I have to give your running commentary on Kevin's blogs points for consistency.

Most certainly, such commentary is always remarkably ill-informed, but it has nonetheless remained consistently stunted in both its rationale and its logic, regardless of where George W. Bush has stood in the polls over the years.

And speaking of polls -- acccording the latest polls conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup and the Los Angeles Times, you are now in rarified atmosphere, being among those 19% of Americans who think Bush's performance in the Oval Office is outstanding.

So hang in there, Big Guy. You're courting true political marginalization from most of your fellow countrymen and women, and you've doubtless earned every damn bit of it.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 17, 2006 at 5:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kenji: "Wow [McAristotle]! What's the weather like up your own ass?"

Everybody's always asking Al that same question.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 17, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

McA: It isn't a "palace revolt" and Kevin has had this pointed out several times already on this thread. These men are free to criticize if they see fit - indeed, I would say they have a responsibility to do so, borne of their unique situations - they are civilians now, and their constitutional rights have been restored.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

But would you be worried if Clinton-era military retired decided to come out after Hillary gets the nomination and reveal the warnings or hints on Al Qaeda and North Korea he ignored?

Clinton made deep, deep budget cuts. India and Pakistan became nuclear powers on his watch.


Posted by: mcA on April 17, 2006 at 5:49 AM | PERMALINK

I will be the first to admit that there was some fat to trim, and no weapons systems or missions were adversely affected by any fat-trimming done on Clinton's watch. Spinning this to be his baby is a non-starter.

Now I am going to play my trump card: I have access to US military installations. I frequent a couple of Officer's Clubs and I talk to retired and active duty officers, and the sentiments expressed by the retired General's is more prevalent than Bubble boy, or his loyalists here, is willing to admit.

This president has lost the officer corps. That is not a good place for any president to be in.

But hey, keep clapping and maybe Tinkerbell won't die...

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

One more thing, McA - Check your facts before you post something.

Indi became a nuclear power in 1974 with the detonation of it's first nuke. I wasn't aware Clinton was president the year Nixon resigned.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's wise to be uneasy about something that has a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military. But has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?

If you're smelling "palace revolt", I suggest that has nothing to do with how the war is managed, and everything to do with how the country is governed. "Palace revolt" is what happens when there are no democratic means of changing the administration to reflect the will of the people, and the time to be uneasy about that was December 2000. Bit late to fret about your nation's descent into third-world clich now.

Posted by: derek on April 17, 2006 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

A palace coup could be in the works, but that wouldn't be better than the fascist regime we have in place now. If we didn't have such a bloated, over-developed military, there wouldn't be such a glut of yammering warmakers. Until we recognize that a constant war stance diminishes us as a democracy, we are going to have these problems.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on April 17, 2006 at 6:57 AM | PERMALINK

This is not a civilian control of the military issue. These generals are retired (while still legally officers and could be called to active duty and subeject to prosecution under the UCMJ) they are by tradition permitted to criticize the political leadership of the US. Note also the criticism is focused on the conduct of the planning and of the conduct of the war which is within their professional competence to discuss.

Timing is . . . I suspect . . . partly about the publication of "Cobra II" which details the style of Rumsfeld's micro-management and wishful thinking and it is also driven by concerns about Iran.

Rumsfeld . . . great commentary by David Brooks in the NYT this weekend about Rumsfeld being the right man for changing the Pentagon and the wrong man to fight a war. Brooks! There is unease in many quarters . . .

State of the contemporary Army . . . obviously totally ancedotal but the middle grade officers I am talking to are tired and frustrated. Many were professionally pumped to work with great soldiers in Iraq trying to make a difference but when they come down off the high of shared danger they are not seeing progress or genuine consistent application of new thinking . . . not entirely Rumsfeld's fault . . this a professional problem as well. The institution is stressed right now and the attempt at a covert drawdown which is driven by US domestic concerns more than by progress on the ground is opening up again a disconnect between the public language of what our strategy is and the reality on the ground. Gathering forces into FOBs is not typically a strategy for success.

We should have a vigorous debate about where we are going in Iraq and if the only people who can survive the first blast of the political slime machine are retired generals then that is way it will be . . . it is up to the rest of us to carry the debate forward productively and in way the enhances the security of our country.

Posted by: retired army offficer on April 17, 2006 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

Whats this? The little Drummer boy is now a loose Gannon? ( sorry ' cannon' )

He may well cut and run while I, and others will hang tough and support the troops - the troops that frag their officers.

Posted by: professor rat on April 17, 2006 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

RETIRED ARMY OFFICER:

Very well put. Thank you. You just said perfectly what my husband has been saying since 2003.

Posted by: Global Citizen on April 17, 2006 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

I am a little puzzled why many seem to have a problem with retired military officers speaking out on policy issues (as opposed to those on active duty). Once a general retires or resigns in protest, what is the objection about them expressing their views same as a EPA or State Department who resigns.

I agree in wishing more of them might have resigned in protest in 2002 and 2003, but that is asking for a lot of personal sacrifice from ambitious people who usually can easily find some pragmatic, self-justifying pragmatic reasons for not resigning at the time.

Not all the generals waited until now to criticize Bush's Iraq policy. We should honor those like Anthony Zinni or the State Department officers who did resign in protest.

Zinni and Hoar were among the retired military personnel who had the courage to speak out in 2002 and 2003 when it could have done some good. Unfortunately, no one in the establishment media was paying much attention to what should have been major news (Zinni had been Bush's Middle East negotiator afterall before he resigned). It's interesting that it was the retired Marine generals who seemed most outspoken before the war.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on April 17, 2006 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

why didn't they speak up before? first, not many generals got there by criticizing their superiors, and second "retired" means "not in the military".

who would you rather have speaking up, people who are experts in their field or know-nothings? rumsfeld's BS about "thousands" of generals is a strawman argument, the relatively small number of them with detailed knowledge are the ones that count, not the many whose expertise is elsewhere in the world. you don't need to look far to see how well the expert predictions fared vs the Wolfowitz predictions in re the after the overthrow period.

criticizing people for remaining silent is easy, but speaking up when you risk your career or possibly even your freedom isn't. if you want to complain about something that isn't a sunk cost, how about the hundreds (probably thousands) of people with detailed knowledge of things that shouldn't have happened who are still silent, for example your congresspeople, the mainstream press, and many others? it is quite likely there are people out there today who know things that could put a stop to the war and to the republican control of it in november (although I must admit that after abu ghraib came out my faith in the average voter's right action sank out of sight).

Posted by: supersaurus on April 17, 2006 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

Wel, it's like earthquakes- you're better off with a lot of little ones than one big one.

You can't expect the generals to do nothing while Bush wrecks the military.

I was kind of wondering if maybe Cheney would have a "heart attack" so Bush could be impeached (or taken away in a straight-jacket).

So, as startling and novel as it may be, a little open discussion might be a valuable prophylactic.

Posted by: serial catowner on April 17, 2006 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

But now that theyre comfortably retired, and were three years into the war....

In the case of Major General John Batiste, that is not entirely fair. He retired early, passing up a third star, in order to speak out. Here is an exchange from The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer last Thursday:

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: ...There are times that you're told to do things that you don't agree with and you're given an opportunity to rebut, to give reasons why it shouldn't be that way. And at the end of the day, you either salute and execute or you make a decision to retire or resign; that's the way it is. There's always that dialogue.

JIM LEHRER: And you took the option to salute and go ahead, correct?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Up until a point. In November of 2005, I retired from the Army. I transitioned. By all accounts, I had a very promising career ahead of me, but I was not willing to compromise further the principles of war.

Posted by: Michael on April 17, 2006 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

General Eisenhower was a retired general. He spoke out against the military industrial complex.

Retired generals are citizens. They have all the rights of other citizens. Including the right to voice their opinions.

The concern about civilian control is a red herring.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on April 17, 2006 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: Should the generals have spoken up earlier? Should they have spoken up at all? ...has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?

Under the guise of being just another wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed, take-no-stand, late-night throwaway post, you manage to reveal your actual position. From the mischaracterizing title of your piece ("The Generals' Revolt"); to the proxy disapproving views of your friend serving in Iraq (who has to stay "mute and neutral" because he's on active duty, but somehow manages to be neither mute nor neutral); to your own timidly critical remark ("I think it's wise to be uneasy about something that has a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military"), you are once again taking a Republican/conservative/dishonest position, as you provide cover for the administration.

Others (special mention to Aaron's 2:29am comment) have pointed out the fallacy of suggesting this might be a "revolt" or that the generals are being disloyal, but there are a couple of other points I think are relevant.

The administration does not want the military (officers or enlisted, active duty or retired) to stay "mute and neutral." At every opportunity they trot out military spokesmen from all levels and categories to support their positions and decisions. They have staged backdrops at military bases when the president speaks to their cheers, they have paid analysts pushing the administration's line on news shows, administration spokespersons speak all the time of the military's high morale, they have promoted Lt. General William Boykin to deputy undersecretary of Defense for his public remarks supporting the administration and Christianity.

No, the administration isn't interested in keeping the military neutral regarding their strategy or tactics; it applauds and showcases any instance of favorable remarks. As always, it is dissent which they condemn. Sure, they say the dissenting generals should have spoken up at the time, just as they say congressmen should have spoken up when a select few of them were given sketchy details regarding the CIA's illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens. But they neglect to mention that, just as the congressmen were sworn to secrecy under penalty of law, so too were the generals sworn to loyalty under penalty of demotion or discharge.

Others also have well addressed the point regarding the answer to the question posed by Kevin's stand-in, "Why now?" Yes, the increasing likelihood of an attack on Iran, whether nuclear or not, is the primary answer to it. But so is the fact that these generals have had time to assess the results of the administration's actions in Iraq, which have come up well short of its promises. Just as the people and the press typically give their President a "honeymoon" period once he's in office, so do generals give the benefit of the doubt to their Commander in Chief's military undertakings. But like the American people, they're not blind to failure.

But looming military intervention in Iran is at the heart of the general's immediate concern, of course, as are the prospects of using nukes there. Far from basing their concerns on only their own expertise, the generals are joined by concerned scientists whose expertise should not be questioned. The whole hypocritical notion that these generals are in the least bit out of line sort of vaporizes in the face of the nuclear nightmare the administration is not only putting on the table, but also threatening to serve up to a "mute and neutral" world of useless equivocators who care more for their standing and comforts than they do even for the survival of the planet.


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Posted by: wow gold on April 17, 2006 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, no one complained about this when generals were praising the Bush Administration, were they? But as soon as some RETIRED generals speak out, all of a sudden we're worried about "civiliian control of the military?" That's one gigantic pantload, dude.

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Posted by: wow gold on April 17, 2006 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

So Kevin, I am just wondering if you are going to update this post to admit you were talking out the old ass when you claimed that retired generals complaining about Rumsfeld somehow threatens the civilian leadership of the military?

Don't worry, I won't be holding my breath.

Posted by: Dominion on April 17, 2006 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with jayarbee. The administration has used and abused the military for its own ends.

A a few talking point

* Those who wear the uniform must speak as soldiers, or take that uniform off

* Those who take off their uniforms should speak as citizens

* Those who served their country as soldiers have earned the right to voice their opinions as citizens.

And one final talking point:

* In information theory, a signal that is entirely predictable carries no new information. That applies to Al.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on April 17, 2006 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

We have 4 or 5 retired generals out of thousands speaking against Rummy. This is a tiny segment and it's more than fully offset by those speaking out in support of Rummy. It's amazing the crowd of camera hungry weasels is so small.

Anyone who knows anything at all about the military is away of the large ego's and the amount of political back-stabbing that is part of daily life. He's been at it for almost 6 years, two wars and a major re-organization. And they can only find 4 critics?

Posted by: rdw on April 17, 2006 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld takes orders from above. Does it matter if the next Cheney yes-man isn't Rummy?. What bothers me is the precedent of military leaders (ex or present) trying to force out the civilian boss. Don't get me wrong: I thing Rumsfeld is a supreme wanker, but this whole, "watch this Rummy hand while we're busy preparing for an Iran attack" is silly, and I'm extremely uneasy about the military having influence over civilian hirings and firings.

Posted by: D on April 17, 2006 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Take the cyanide now, Al. It's easy.

Posted by: Your Friend Adolf on April 17, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

I have some caplets for you too, rdw.

Posted by: Your Fiend Adolf on April 17, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

The thought of tanks rolling up to the White House lawn to effect an eviction of the current residents appeals to me.

Posted by: Shoeless Joe Stalin on April 17, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, let's get the argument off of what the retired generals are saying, and on to the fact that they're generals.

They're saying what we all know, even in their heart of hearts, what Al and rdw know -- Bush and his lil' friends fucked up.

Posted by: Bat Guano on April 17, 2006 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

The media of course is exaggerating the extent of this "revolt" which consists of a very small number of retired generals making pretty non-specific criticisms mostly about events that are long passed. It makes for an interesting story and another way to bash the Bush administration.

I am bothered by both the generals' apparent disregard of the potential adverse effect of their comments on the war and their attack being focused on one guy Rumsfield. I would be more impressed if they focused on policy/strategic issues of current significance where their views might make a contribution to the debate. The whole idea of "let's fire Rumsfield" being a positive answer to anything seems very unlikely -- so Leiberman or McCain or whoever becomes Secretary of Defense -- what difference would that make? It would seem to be a net minus in terms of the loss of experience and the distractions and efficiencies that would accompany any change in leadership.

Posted by: brian on April 17, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

The ex-generals are precisely that: ex-generals. They are civilians. The criticism of the criticism is hot air. When Eisenhower campaigned for the presidency, he -- ex-general Eisenhower -- ran on explicit criticism of Truman's military policy.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 17, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

This threatening of a military coup seems like a total strawman to me. I saw the article on the front cover of the NY Times and wondered who's stepped up to fill Judy Miller's shoes. For once I have to agree with the usual lefty Drum bashers and say, "What the hell are you thinking Kevin?"

Rumsfeld is incompetent. He should be replaced. I don't see a problem with retired generals saying that out loud.

I seem to recall a spate of articles from 3 or 4 years ago talking about the Bush admin forcing generals into early retirement, and saturating the Pentagon with arrogant civilians and young officers whose main credential was loyalty to Bush. Criticism was being leaked by career military people at the Pentagon. I didn't hear a damned thing back then about criticism leading to coups. This is another bullshit spin from the RNC.

Posted by: Librul on April 17, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

The real difference is not that Generals are speaking out (Zinni and McCaffrey have since before the war) but that Generals who were actually part of this battle and commanded over in Iraq (but are now retired) are speaking out. So it's more of a McClellan moment, seems to me.

T.R. Elliot
* In information theory, a signal that is entirely predictable carries no new information. That applies to Al.

And yet, people pay to see Kabuki dances and rent old movies. Go figure.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 17, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

The ex-generals are precisely that: ex-generals. They are civilians. The criticism of the criticism is hot air. When Eisenhower campaigned for the presidency, he -- ex-general Eisenhower -- ran on explicit criticism of Truman's military policy.

If Eisenhower had retired during WWII and then started criticizing while the war went on, that'd be the correct analogy. The current Generals are commenting on a situation that they were a key part of.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 17, 2006 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton made deep, deep budget cuts. India and Pakistan became nuclear powers on his watch.

I hadn't realized that Clinton had been president that long. I could have sworn Nixon was president in 1974.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 17, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

If Eisenhower had retired during WWII and then started criticizing while the war went on, that'd be the correct analogy. The current Generals are commenting on a situation that they were a key part of.

That's rhetorically dust-worthy but irrelevant. If you go back further, McClellan ran against Lincoln.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 17, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The retired generals who are standing up for Rumdumb, such as McInerney and Vallely, have vested interests in doing business with DOD.

Perhaps many of his newly outspoken critics are feeling a wee bit like Tony Blair in singing, "The thrill is gone, the thrill has gone away".

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 17, 2006 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Better late than never......If ever we have to confront the Iran neclear I don't want it to be on Dubya's watch.

Posted by: Lou C on April 17, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

How evil of Clinton to be cutting spending! No wonder the right hates him.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 17, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

If Eisenhower had retired during WWII and then started criticizing while the war went on, that'd be the correct analogy. The current Generals are commenting on a situation that they were a key part of.

Actually, that would have had a beneficial impact on the course of the war. Eisenhower, being a patron for the inept Bradley and Hodges, diverted resources away from Patton/3rd US Army and handed the Germans several months, which they used to regroup and launch the Ardennes offensive. Tens of thousands of Americans, Brits and Canadians died because Eisenhower refused to abandon outdated tactics and allow the mechanized units to encircle and destroy German units, preferring to attack them head on more often than not.

Eisenhower was not as good as he has been made out to be, and Patton was no where near as bad as those who promoted the 'Eisenhower' myth wanted people to believe.

The current crop are simply covering their asses, afraid of being 'McMastered.' If you don't know Colonel McMaster, get to know his work and you will understand where this started and what it means for the future of the US military.

As for generals criticizing in war time, that's as old as the hills and has no bearing on current reality. There is actually a group with a name that is based on the idea of 'West Point Graduates Against the Iraq War.'

We've had dissension in the ranks since Day One of the US Army--to wit, criticisms of General Washington.

Posted by: Not really a commenter on April 17, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike:

Eisenhower was NATO commander during most of the Korean War, coming back to the Army after two years of civilian life. He did not resign from active duty until May 31, 1952, and did so for the express purpose of running for President. That's just about the loudest implicit criticism of a sitting President I can think of, and he followed it up by immediately heaping scorn on Truman's policies, both domestic and foreign.

As to the retired generals' criticism of Rumsfeld, he has placed the Army and Marines in an extraordinarily precarious position in Iraq, and now appears to be urging military confrontation with a much larger nation that has a much stronger military than Iraq had 3 years ago. They are civilians and are free to speak their minds about the huge crisis shaping up in the Middle East.


Posted by: JJB on April 17, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

It is hard to believe that folks are citing McClellan to support the proposition that it is a good thing for a former general to criticize the administration's conduct of a war. McClellan was a flop as a general, a supreme egotist focused almost entirely upon glory for himself, a general and politician opposed the freeing of slaves, tried to undermine President Lincoln (both as a general and as a former general) and if elected, he almost certainly would have negotiated us into two separate countries, one holding slaves.

McClellan and the currrent former generals had and have the right to say whatever they want as matter of freedome of speech, but the questions are whether they are showing good judgment and whether their statements help our country.

I think the obvious answers are no (unless you give McClellan credit for getting Lincoln re-elected0. If the current former generals have some wisdom, let them tell us something that we should be doing differently or additionally, not that we should fire their former boss.

Posted by: brian on April 17, 2006 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld just sent in a budget that gives the services everything they've ever asked for in terms of big, shiny new weapons systems. He's doing nothing real or concrete in terms of changing the way they're organized or the missions they're supposed to fight. The notion they're pissed because he's a reformer with results or whatever is bullshit.

Absolutely!

And it really pissed me off this morning listening to Cokie Roberts float that stinker out there: that the generals are pissed because Rumsfeld is a reformer. Frankly, if there's calls for anyone to resign it should Bush. Afterall, he's in charge, right?

Posted by: ChrisS on April 17, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

As Gen. Wes Clark says, these retired generals have not just a right but an obligation to speak out under these circumstances. Gen. Batiste said on the Today show that he was speaking out on behalf of the troops. But they also have a duty to the nation. If the fact that they once served means they can never discuss the issues, then it's a one-way ratchet that always works in favor of the administration's policies. The fact that they are retired makes all the difference. They could not speak out publicly while on active duty, as it should be. THAT would constitute a palace revolt. Their obligation then was to work within the chain of command, which is what they say they did. Read Gen. Newbold's piece in Time magazine. Gen. Zinni, of course, was retired before the war, and he spoke out very publicly and straightforwardly about it then, saying that he thought the war was a huge mistake. As the former Central Command commander (Tommy Franks' predecessor in the command that Norman Schwartzkopf held during the first Gulf War), perhaps his comments then should have been given more attention.

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Read Aaron at 2:29 a.m.! This is a bamboozle p.r. counterattack. This may be the one group of commentators that even this administration can't swift boat effectively. Best to change the subject subtly but quickly.

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please. We've always had this level of activity vis-a-vis the civilian leadership when things get bad.

Lincoln had problems with generals over policy, so did Truman in Korea.

This is nothing new. And, at this point, should be encouraged. The mentality you outline will only lead to disaster, and, in effect, is carrying water for current policies.

Damn straight we need our generals to speak up. Some flags, too.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett on April 17, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

The most telling thing about this whole brouhaha is Rumsfeld's reaction. He could have called the current generals in to say, "Guys, are there issues you aren't bringing to my attention because you're afraid to speak up?"
Instead he puts out a defensive memo and is calling in the staff to justify the war and the way it has operated.
Only incompetents don't recognize when they've made mistakes.
And I do believe that Sy Hersh's article about Iran coming out about the same time these generals are speaking out is no coincidence...

Posted by: lou on April 17, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

" ... a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military ... "

Those who refuse to stop living in fear, will drag the rest of us down--- NoIdea, maybe me? April, 2006-

This isn't about civilian vs brass cntrl, it is about blame, via honest assesment of very recent history, and the Generals are way smart to get out in front of that Political SteamROller

Posted by: RF on April 17, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Eisenhower was NATO commander during most of the Korean War, coming back to the Army after two years of civilian life.

Hmmm, wasn't aware. I know Truman and Ike were far from best of buds.

As for the whole Rumsfeld thing, I've had a pretty good view of flag opinion of him, within the Navy at least, for a long time. One of those flags spent 6 months in Iraq with the CPA prior to picking up his star. From that knowledge, I'm not surprised to see retirees coming out and speaking. I thought Rumsfeld should have stepped aside after Abu Ghraib, myself. And his program of modernizing the military need not die with him. Bush can pick someone else with a similar mindset but without the baggage.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 17, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

The generals should have spoken up earlier.

Better late than never.

Why now? What do they fear more than Iraq?

Posted by: cardiac on April 17, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

As for "why now," Iran is certainly one factor. So is the recent publication of the book "Cobra II" by Michael Gordon and retired Marine general Benard Trainor, which gives a fairly comprehensive overview of the runup and start to the war. They can now see that their own frustrating experiences were not unique but representative of the administration's approach. And, finally, the passage of sufficient time to (1) make it clear that the war is badly off-track, and (2) give us a "critical mass" (so to speak) of people who served in critical commands during the war and are now retired and free to speak out.

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

the harm theyre doing to the principle of civilian control over the military

Compared to the harm civilian control is doing to the military, this is academic.

Why is it that we expect people in the military to just take it and take it? Because they tend to come from poorer backgrounds than, say, our pundits? Are they supposed to be stupid, weak, and disposable?

It's amazing it's taken this long. Then again, the administration has always counted on everyone else playing by the rules so that they can leverage their weakness. Con-men always do.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on April 17, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's not just these generals that we should find disturbing. There are former members of the Bush administration that have been writing books and speaking on news programs for years. And these are just two classes of civilians. It's actually quite widespread. The White House press corp questions nearly every move of the president, and the other day I saw a woman with a baby at the grocery store make disparaging remarks about him.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 17, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Its also difficult to weigh the value in having these generals speak out now, versus the harm theyre doing to the principle of civilian control over the military."

No, it's not. Because retired generals ARE CIVILIANS. Much like George Washington when he became president. Active duty military personell cannot question the chain of command. But retired personell can and absolutely should. Who else if not them? Criticism from others is shot down by two responses: (1) You didn't serve so you don't know, and (2) You don't here military people complaining so there must not be a problem.

Posted by: houndog on April 17, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Klueless kevin,

mismanagment of the invasion of iraq has nothing to do with the retired Generals speaking out now against Rumsfeld. As usual, you appear not have been paying attention or are being willfully ignorant. Let me make this as simple as possible.

The Generals are speaking out now in order to bring attention to, and hopefully stop the administration's plans to attack Iran with nuclear weapons.

Posted by: pluege on April 17, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"McClellan and the currrent former generals had and have the right to say whatever they want as matter of freedome of speech, but the questions are whether they are showing good judgment and whether their statements help our country."

No, Brian, the question is whether they are right about Rummy, and the answer is "yes, they are."

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 17, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

And his program of modernizing the military need not die with him.

Which is what, exactly? He is spending more money on elite forces and buying them toys, while continually re-stockpiling the cold war style military. He's not reforming but two things, jack and shit.

Posted by: ChrisS on April 17, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's pretty clear that they bit their tongues and followed orders in Iraq. But with all the saber-rattling about Iran, which would be a much more difficult and complicated problem to solve than Iraq (a terribly difficult problem itself), they want stronger voices and saner heads to be making the arguments when it comes to putting troops in harm's way.

Posted by: Robert on April 17, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: Very true about old movies and Kabuki. Perhaps that's the difference between entertainment (time filler) and information.

Another issue: Some say the Generals should have resigned when they disagreed. Those who say that are admitting that generals have the right, while in uniform, to disagree by resigning. Given that they are allowed to disagree under this scenario, it seems they should be able to disagree under the scenario in which they retire.

From my experience in the private sector, I think there is merit in (a) voicing one's complaints internally and privately and then (b) following orders to see if one's personal opinion is wrong. But then, when the house of cards starts to fall, I think those who voiced their opinions internally have the right and in fact the obligation to step aside and tell the world the truth.

Call it finger pointing if you want. But organizations, and not just the military, require people who are opposed to opinions or direction to play with the team, in particular given the complexity of any endeavor--and the possibility that one's personal opinion is wrong.

In the present case, Iraq is a total failure. Nothing, absolutely nothing, that the administration said would happen has happened.

Fire Rumsfeld now.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on April 17, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld may be the architect of the war, much like McNamara was of his war. But Bush is the owner of the Contract, and it is he who must go, along with his entire group. Getting rid of Rumsfeld guarantees us the continuation of failure. Bush is the one who should have, long ago, demanded some accoutnability from Rumsfeld. Alas, our President is once again showing that although he makes big moves and takes big risks, he rarely can execute a plan, and win. Witness all his previous attempts at business. No, we need to let this one play out. Americans voted for this guy. Americans need to feel the pain, and remember that pain in the future, when the next idiot with a plan comes along.

Posted by: Chris on April 17, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think that your friend is letting his current active duty status color his thinking about the actions of the retired generals, to the extent that he questions the propriety of their speaking out now. He is right that he must currently keep his opinions to himself, under the UCMJ, for good policy reasons. But does he envision that he should never again publicly discuss his own views of the war, etc., even after he steps down (hopefully safe and sound with all his limbs) from active duty? Does he not anticipate being able to speak his mind once he is "civilian again?"
To the extent that he questions the generals' failure to speak up within the chain of command at the time, we don't know the extent to which they did. It is worth taking them one by one. Zinni was retired, as former CentCom commander, when the runup to the war started and he spoke out publicly as he should have. Batiste and Swannack served as division commanders during the war, and Eaton trained Iraqi forces. While this presumably gave them a pretty good window into the management of the war, they didn't have a direct role in interacting with the Pentagon. Their orders came from Abizaid and Sanchez. I don't believe Riggs served in Iraq. Newbold, as the director of operations for the JCS just before the war, was the only one who was in position to speak directly to the civilian policymakers about it, and he says in his TIME magazine article that he spoke up about what he calls an unnecessary war "enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable," although the point of his article is to take responsibility for failing to do even more. I'd suggest that your friend, and others, read Newbold's article in the April 17 TIME magazine ("Why Iraq Was a Mistake.")

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Aaron on April 17, 2006 at 2:29 AM:

Once again, someone, somehow, has managed to take attention off of the competence question at the core of the problem and replace it with a loyalty sideshow...

Bingo! If you can't defend versus the criticism, then attack the messenger. The Rovian-Republican Whitehouse at its finest.

Posted by: Jon Karak on April 17, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Glad to see that you're highlighting some of the uncomfortable truths of this "General's Revolt", Mr. Drum. Liberals should think long and hard about the kinds of precedents they might help establish (or more accurately, reinforce) by embracing the generals too closely. Granted, Rumsfeld is a total disaster. In the long run, when the memoirs come out and the archives are opened, it'll be clear that Rumsfeld was far, far worse than MacNamara. But his ouster won't accomplish anything, as long as Bush appoints his successor, and gives the orders. Most important, the notion that generals are some kind of foreign policy College of Cardinals is almost certain to be more harmful to future (hypothetical) progressive initiatives than anyone else. At a time when American democracy is plainly weakened, it's not a good idea to grant leaders of a historically anti-democratic institution some kind of special authority, just because they happen to be saying things -- for now -- that we like to hear.

As others have mentioned, the time for these generals to resign and express their reservations was three years ago. Their sudden epiphanies mainly represent an officer corps trying to cover its own ass. We don't want Rumsfeld to get away with that; we shouldn't let these generals, either.

Posted by: sglover on April 17, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Aaron nailed it.

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

This is like asking a creationist or an intelligent designer what evidence they would accept before they changed their views.

Ask the wingers: Name the person who, if they stood up and say, 'This war is a disaster. We should withdraw, and Rumsfeld should resign," you would believe?

Who would change your mind?

The answer, it seems clear, is no one. Or Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld, which is just about the same thing.

Go ahead. Set a criterion. Say 'If so-and-so comes out against the war, I'll admit I'm wrong.'

You won't.

Posted by: pbg on April 17, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

If former NASA administrators were stepping forward to say "that last shuttle mission that I worked on, that one that ended so badly, was deeply flawed because of misjudgments and mistakes in Washington," would anyone be questioning whether it made sense to listen to what they had to say?

Posted by: twc on April 17, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

To me; this seems a very definitive case of CYA, (Cover Yer Arse!). It is plainly clear, (from press statements and speeches), that the military is going to take the fall for the Iraq Quagmire!

Already!

"We" have made thousands of tactical errors!

Posted by: krwada on April 17, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I've got a lengthy blog post on the issue - from the worried-about-politicized-military perspective - if anyone's interested.

http://punditician.blogspot.com/2006/04/criticism-of-civilian-leadership-of.html

Posted by: cdj on April 17, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

generals are citizens, too. They are not owned by the US government. They have every right to speak their mind. The government has every right to fire them.

They should have said something at the start, yes. But like so many conservatives, how could they have ever beleived this administration would lie to them and misuse them so badly going in. Sure, good liberals saw right through their shit, but this was promised as their heaven on earth, providing lots of opportunity to show off their prowess and give opportunities for advancement.

Remember, the Bush admin functions on reasonable doubt. Sure, it may look stupid and incompetent - but what if it works? They seem awfully sure. Is it worth throwing away a career and a nice retirement?

The first failure lies squarely on the shoulders of the american people who let Bush seize power unblinkingly. Twice.

At this point, I'd welcome about any alternative to 3 more years of bush, including military coup and Martian invasion...

Posted by: Mysticdog on April 17, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Anybody who thinks Bush will fire Rumsfeld because several generals want him fired, is an idiot.

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 17, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, why should Bush listen to the experts. He never has before.

Posted by: ckelly on April 17, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

How evil of Clinton to be cutting spending! No wonder the right hates him.

Clinton implemented the neo-con plans for the military, and they hate him for that. Had he not implemented their plan, they'd hate him. The right hates him because they hate him.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 17, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

And please, can we quit with this canard about Rumsfelds "modernizing the military" plan? The military has been under constant modernization, and many of the new concepts for weapon systems and organization were put together by the Clinton Administration.

Rummy's contribution has been to privatize everything that could be privatized, so our grunts get $1200 a month to guard contractors making $500 a day, who are needed there solely because the military can't feed or transport or communicate or shelter or gather intel for itself anymore - it needs contractors outside the chain of command for that. And its one of the many reasons things are so fucked up over there.

Reversing every policy put into effect by this administration would be many positive steps forward, especially where the military is concerned.

Posted by: Mysticdog on April 17, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

We should have a Ministry of Dissidence, and it should be mandated that anyone who wants to speak out against the dear leader or one of his minions has to get a license to do so from the Ministry prior to any act of Dissidence.

Posted by: lib on April 17, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

.i But I guess most of all, I have to ask the question why now? It wouldve been one thing for these generals to fall on their swords in 2003 or 2004 to literally lay their stars on the line when it counted.

And the answer is: Gen. (ret.) Shinseki

Posted by: dcshungu on April 17, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The one ex-military figure who I wish would've spoken up prior to November 04 is Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's key aide at the State Department. Wilkerson, who now speaks of the radicalism of the Bush Administration, saw first hand how calmer heads such as Powell were marginalized and ignored.

Posted by: ckreiz on April 17, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. Those serving Rumsfeld should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. Those serving those serving Rumsfeld should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. If it hurts the troops sensiblitities - GOOD. The troops should have arrested their commanders or refused to serve. Since they chose to serve, they should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.

Posted by: Hostile on April 17, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.

Rummy will receive the Presidential medal of Freedom for his long and distinguished service to his country for his days as a fighter pilot in his 20's up to and especially this stint in his 70's. What a marvelous figure of accomplishment. Few men have achieved what he's managed in 50 years.


Don't fret about a few generals. They're a tiny segment. One cannot run a war without pissing at least a few dozen off and don't forget he's done a lot more than run one war. He's run two and reorganized the entire military structure.

Look for the ceremony in late 2008 as GWB prepares to turn everything over. Merry Xmas Don!

Posted by: rdw on April 17, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld--and a few others--might want to avoid traveling in Europe after they retire. The International Criminal Court is open, and they might get Pinochet'd.

Posted by: Wombat on April 17, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Under the guise of being just another wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed, take-no-stand, late-night throwaway post, you manage to reveal your actual position. From the mischaracterizing title of your piece ("The Generals' Revolt"); to the proxy disapproving views of your friend serving in Iraq (who has to stay "mute and neutral" because he's on active duty, but somehow manages to be neither mute nor neutral); to your own timidly critical remark ("I think it's wise to be uneasy about something that has a bit of a sense of a palace revolt against the current civilian leadership of the military"), you are once again taking a Republican/conservative/dishonest position, as you provide cover for the administration.

Thanks to jayarbee.

Posted by: Hostile on April 17, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't you guys figured it out that Kevin plays the role of throwing red meat to the piranhas? (us). Why all the personal stuff?

Posted by: Wombat on April 17, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Looked at in the whole sweep of US history, there has never been anything remotely like it. In fact it has never happened in world history. People point to McArthur and McClelland, but those were single voices. Six is the number so far! I love it when that uberliar Rumsfled says, "Gosh, if every Secretry of Defense resigned every time a few generals ask him too..." What an incredible jokeIT is and HE is!

Reversing my indignation, I have to admit, I'm enjoying this. It's great theater and as any great play does, it affords us fine views into the interior of human motivationsgreed, lust for power, hubris, religious zealotry, all starkly illuminated. Now let us hope for the better angels of our nature to put things right. Meanwhile you can tell your grandkids you witnessed, first hand, the worst administration in American history.

Posted by: James of DC on April 17, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Man, I am glad I decided not to hold my breath!

Posted by: Dominion on April 17, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

The International Criminal Court is open

The last think Rummy needs to worry about is Old Europe. In any event if they did run inot him they'd probably just surrender.

Posted by: rdw on April 17, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Someone did mention that these are RETIRED generals right? They've entered civilian life, so the whole "military questioning civilian leadership" or "palace revolt" b.s. is totally inapplicable.

Posted by: haha on April 17, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

This may be a case of the military protesting current and future actions against Iran, as opposed to the seemingly lost war in Iraq.

Posted by: jt123 on April 17, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The chimp , shotgun chaney , 100 proof -rummy and oh yes ; Al are all as full of SHIT as a forced fed French
goose.

Posted by: 1 ASS HOLE = 1 OPINION on April 17, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

"...the other day I saw a woman with a baby at the grocery store make disparaging remarks about him [bush]."

makes perfect sense. Among a host of other things, babies are the essence of the future. Any real parent would be out-of-their-minds furious at the bushliar-criminal and republicans in general for threatening, stealing, and ruining the future, i.e., their children's potential for happiness and success.

Posted by: pluege on April 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, how much more disingenuous can you get??

Palace revolt???

These are retired generals, for God's sake!

With friends like you .....

Posted by: ppk on April 17, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

the harm theyre doing to the principle of civilian control over the military

Sort of like when Colon Bowel defied Clinton in the gays in the military "controversy".

Posted by: Juanita de Talmas on April 17, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

This idea that the generals are "opportunistic" is completely back-asswards.

Notice that almost all of these officers -- Zinni is a notable exception -- have served IN Iraq under Rumsfeld's leadership.

Perhaps they supported the war ex ante. Perhaps they didn't realize how big a screwup Rumsfeld is, ex ante.

But now, having done time in combat with Rummy at the helm, they know first-hand how bad he is. So they've changed their minds. Good! Isn't it a good thing when people update their beliefs on the basis of experience and information?

That's a good thing, not a "disgusting" and "opportunistic" thing as an earlier posting put it.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on April 17, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is saying essentially the same thing I said last Friday on his "Firing Don" thread. Look, the generals on active duty don't get any real input on the political decisions their civilian bosses make. But they should have considerable input when the military is asked to carry out those decisions. Rumsfeld apparently didn't listen to the generals and did it his way, which made these particular generals unhappy.

The generals had a choice then of resigning in protest or staying and carrying out Rummy's orders. Except for Newbold, they chose to stay and remain silent. Now that these generals are retired and the war hasn't gone the way Rummy thought, they're finally airing their unhappiness. They are probably also speaking for some active duty generals who share their views but can't go public with their unhappiness.

There's nothing wrong with these guys saying what they think because they're not on active duty any longer. The ones still on active duty will keep their mouths shut and continue to follow orders, no matter how absurd those orders may be. It's Rummy and Bush who must suffer the consequences for all their bad decisions. The retired generals are just saying the Iraq debacle isn't their fault.

Posted by: Taobhan on April 17, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: "As for the whole Rumsfeld thing, I've had a pretty good view of flag opinion of him, within the Navy at least, for a long time. "

As has already been said above, the Navy (except for corpsmen) didn't fight in Iraq, and hasn't suffered. Heck, Rumsfield's new 'reform' gives them the toys that they planned for back when the USSR was still a going concern.

"One of those flags spent 6 months in Iraq with the CPA prior to picking up his star."

Since we know that the two criteria for being with the CPA were (a) regime loyalty and (b) not knowing anything about the Middle East, why should I care?

"From that knowledge, I'm not surprised to see retirees coming out and speaking. I thought Rumsfeld should have stepped aside after Abu Ghraib, myself. And his program of modernizing the military need not die with him."

He isn't modernizing the military, he's mindlessly continuing unnecessary programs, while letting the Army and Marines wear down to nothing.

"Bush can pick someone else with a similar mindset but without the baggage."

'FTA' is not the mindset that we need; that's Rumsfield's initial problem.

Posted by: Barry on April 17, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some of those with actual military experience could share some inside information concerning what, exactly, the military trains to do?

Oh, its pretty simple to say "defense." However, I hope I'm not being too much of a smart-ass by pointing out that terrorism, or the "GWOT," or whatever the hell you want to call it, is not actually an attack on the United States in the sense that the existence of the United States is somehow in any doubt.

My take on it is that the first couple weeks or so of the Iraq "war" is what the services train to do. Everything since is an occupation. At best, its police work. At worst, its some sort of mediation of a civil war. Only under a really, really strained definition of the word "defense" could it possibly be characterized as "defending" the United States.

I can't imagine that the actual daily regimen in Iraq makes any sense at all to those stuck in Iraq. Sure, loyalty in terms of following orders is to be praised, but how many people in the militray would belive that preparation for an Iraq-type situation is actually the purpose of the U.S. military?

Posted by: hank on April 17, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

But has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?

Yes.

The Prairie Angel

Posted by: Arachnae on April 17, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hank
Perhaps some of those with actual military experience could share some inside information concerning what, exactly, the military trains to do?

Every four years the SecDef is required to put out the Quadrennial Defense Review, which prioritizes threats and approach. It's what you're looking for.

Here it is.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 17, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why now? They've learned the price of silence. Look what happened after this administration went into Iraq. They see another "Iraq" coming up, and they are speaking up now to try and prevent an attack on Iran. I don't think this can be stated often enough. Retired generals speaking up now doesn't have anything to do with anything other than IRAN.

Posted by: ExBrit on April 17, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hank, to extend your analysis:

After 9/11, the likelihood that the US would need to go out and conquer some countries was radically higher than before 9/11. By 'conquer' I mean to invade, depose the government, and occupy long enough to establish a more friendly government.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfield had Iraq on their wishlist from the start of the administration; 9/11 was merely the political enabler. Even if they couldn't make preparations until after 9/11, they had about a year and a half to ramp up training, equipage and reorganization for the occupation. Not only did they not do that, they prevented proper planning and preparation.

Now, if they had followed the classical plan of deposing the government, installing a ambitious general, and having his forces take the brunt of the work, it'd have made sense. But again, not only did they not do that, they systematically pissed off the Sunnis and Shiites; the only reason that US troops are still in Iraq is that the Shiite leaders must figure that they're winning, and can kick us out later.

Posted by: Barry on April 17, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the ex-generals are doing the right thing by speaking up. I don't have an intimate knowledge of their motivations, obviously, but it seems to me that they ought to be lauded as patriots for taking this step to expose the incompetence of the defense secretary. This could scarcely have been an easy decision, but they are doing the right thing by refusing to passively acquiesce to what they believe to be disasterous policy. Seems to me that they might be acting to preserve at least a modicum of faith in the "establishment' and spare the country the sort of demoralization that followed vietnam.

Posted by: aidan on April 17, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Not really a commenter: That's some nice cologne you're wearing.

Posted by: shortstop on April 17, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Laugh about palace revolts all you like but just think!

If the retired generals overthrow the civilian government they might:

Go to war just so they can wear a flight suit, because it looks like a cherry-pick, because they've got a personal grudge or they've got a theory about using war to re-shape the political and cultural characteristics of an area to their specifications

Feed lies about intelligence to the American people to bolster their choice for war.

Spy on American citizens without a warrant

Imprison people without due process, depriving them of their right to know what they're accused of and their right to legal representation

Make torture an acceptable part of interrogating those accused of a crime

Reward corporate cronies with huge, non-competed, war-profiteering contracts

Wouldn't that be terrible?

Posted by: cowalker's Republican twin on April 17, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Dave: "Why now"? Iran.

I tend to think that is Iran is on actually on the table, removing Rumsfeld isn't going to stop that train...as a matter of fact, it may very well accelerate depending on who VP Cheney decides to insert into the position...

Posted by: justmy2 on April 17, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

"But has mismanagement of the war become so extreme that the usual rules simply don't apply anymore?"

oooo, that's a tough one. Let me think a minute.
Let's see:

In Afghanistan:

--let Osama get away

--let Taliban re-emerge

--transferred men and material to Iraq

In Iraq:

--not enough troops from the start

--inferior body armor for troops that are there

--inferior vehicle armor

--didn't secure weapons caches

--didn't stop the looting

--disbanded (or let disband) Iraqi army and civilian bureaucracy (on grounds of being Baathists)

--alienated civilian population with irrational arrests followed by torture

Hmmm. Tough call, but I think I'll go with "Yes."

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 17, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

A few thoughts. First off, I agree with this post by Aaron on April 17, 2006 at 2:29 AM regarding the media strategy being employed by the GOP to deflect this from incompetence of Rumsfeld and the Administration to whether they have the right to be saying these things now. Seeing as they are retired and no longer active duty they have every right as any other American citizen except where revealing classified information is concerned. So what they are saying regarding Rumsfeld is entirely their right and prerogative as American citizens. What is really offensive in this is listening to chickenhawks arguing that those that actually wore the uniform and fought for the Constitution of the USA and the rights of that society have less of a right to speak once private citizens then they do.

As to the comments I have read from some asking why now, I think it is a combination of the current political environment and the concerns as to a possible attack on Iran and the repercussions to America and the world if this is done, especially given the overstretch of the American military Army/Marine components. I think there is genuine fear that an attack on Iran is more than simply posturing for diplomatic purposes, and given this Administration's history regarding starting wars on its own reasoning as demonstrated by Iraq that seems quite understandable.

However, I also read comments from some castigating these generals for not speaking up sooner when it could have made a difference. I do not think that is a fair criticism myself. First off, the emotional mood of America post 9/11/01 leading up to the Iraq invasion was intense and there was a clear and consistent political machine in place to destroy any credible critics that came forward. Shinseki underscored this I expect, but it was far from the only example at the time. So it is very likely that these generals could not see any positive impacts coming from their resigning in protest. If so, I strongly suspect that they stayed not because they believed in the mission but because they knew that those under them would be fighting this war and they did not want to abandon them to fight without them. this is a part of the military mindset, especially in those that serve out of duty and love of country. It is also a part of the bonding within the military culture which helps to make it such a tight knit community, something very important when you have to trust those around you with your lives and your officers to not spend your lives without meaning/gain. I would suggest that these generals did not want to abandon their men and even knowing the risks of the Bush/Rumsfeld military planning and operations to those men they simply could not abandon them without doing their best to mitigate those negatives, and even if they felt they could not they still may well have not been willing at that point to abandon their troops.

While I understand the frustration of many with generals not resigning and speaking up sooner, I think that is not being fair nor accurately remembering the context/environment active during the Iraq war buildup. I really doubt if they had done so they would have prevented anything that since happened given the commitment of the Bush Administration to invade Iraq as noted in the Downing Street memo among other sources. I think they were trying to do their best to those under them despite their own reservations. Now they not only have seen just how badly this war was run, they also see rumblings of a possible Iran attack, which among other things WILL have significant negative ramifications within Iraq's Shia population and in turn the American troops in Iraq will be placed at increased risk from both Iran directly AND the Shia population far more so than currently exists.

These generals have every right to do what they are doing, and the responsibility as well. They gave this Administration every chance to prove them wrong and demonstrate they did know what they were doing, they have operated in Iraq themselves (well some of them anyways) under this Administration and SECDEF and they know from those first hand experiences just what reality truly is. That they are speaking out like this in such an unusual manner demonstrates their very real fears that Rumsfeld and Bushco generally are breaking the American ground forces components. They are trying to do their best by their soldiers still in harm's way and they should be respected for it.

Besides, Bushco has used uniformed military officers for political purposes throughout this Administration. They send out the JCS chair repeatedly to speak for them, they have used the military at every turn to keep support for this war high and to equate any criticisms of the war itself or even just its execution as being disloyal to those in uniform. Now that those that actually wore the uniform and have retired and become private citizens again are being critical it is suddenly a horrible thing for political comments from retired military, especially generals? Got to love that dedication to the destruction of the rights of the American citizen, especially those that served in uniform.

This bilge about the civilian control being threatened by these retired officers speaking out is the only way to discredit these men, anything else will be easily seen as partisan political damage control. As someone else noted these men cannot be so easily swiftboated so instead they are accused of undermining civilian control of the military. Completely consistent behaviour by this Administration and its supporters, including our beloved Trolletariat.

Posted by: Scotian on April 17, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Just had to point out this related drivel from today's WSJ editorial supporting Rummy (via CNN):

"It unfortunately appears that two of the retired generals (Messrs. Zinni and Newbold) do not understand the true nature of this radical ideology, Islamic extremism, and why we fight in Iraq. We suggest they listen to the tapes of United 93."

They're still flogging that 9/11-Iraq connection!!

Posted by: John on April 17, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

There has never been anything like this in all of American historyor even world history. People point to MacArthur and McClelland, but those were single voices. Six is the number so far! I love it when that uberliar Rumsfeld says, Gosh, if every Secretary of Defense resigned every time a few generals asked him too... Haw-haw! Yuch-yuch! What a jokeIT is and HE is!

Reversing my indignation, I have to admit, Im enjoying this. Its great theater and as any great play does, it affords us fine views into the interior of human motivationsgreed, lust for power, hubris, religious zealotry, all starkly illuminated. Enter the generals, who represent the better angels of our nature who will help the play end happily. Meanwhile you can tell your grand kids you witnessed, first hand, the worst administration in American history.

Posted by: James of DC on April 17, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

To reiterate Michael's point, General Batiste did not wait until he was "comfortably retired." He did "literally lay [his] stars on the line." He was a two star General, and he turned down a third star and resigned because of his disagreement with the administration. (This information via Obsidian Wings.)

Posted by: Blar on April 17, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Scotian, you really need your own blog. That was 1,000 words you just kicked out. Lucid, too.

I agree that the Generals are in their rights to speak. I will say that back when Clinton took over the military and worked to create the "Don't ask/don't tell" law, there was monstrous grumbling with the military. The military felt used for political purposes, as Clinton had promised the law and there it was. But folks pretty much sucked it up and implemented the policies despite their dislike for the law. I don't recall retirees coming out on that one. Perhaps they did.

Politics and military mixed? Lord, it's ALL politics in DC. Always. Never forget that, and you'll always be smarter.

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 17, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

I think the answer to the question "why now?" is IRAN.

Posted by: Blue Blue Texan on April 17, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I don't really give a damn about the timing, or whether the Generals didn't speak out while they were active! Any blithering idiot could figure they would be crucified under this regime.I am just damn grateful for the candor, now or whenever, to legitimately criticize this FUBAR messofpotamia sink hole! As for civilian control of the military, right now, they are asked to do the impossible, without the tools, or leadership from the top. Arrogance, and stupidity, are not leadership! Thank you, Generals!

Posted by: Grouchy Cowboy on April 18, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

There has never been anything like this in all of American historyor even world history

James,

You're dumber than dirt. Generals bitching about civilain leadership is quite common. What is amazing here is how little there is in this media age. There are over 5,000 ex-generals and admirals. Rummy has led two invasions and a complete restructuring and he's only pissed off 6 Generals?

Posted by: rdw on April 18, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Huh. The first thing to do, is to check the bank accounts of these now-armchair generals, to find out which Rumsfeld-kiboshed weapons-systems-manufacturers' regular stipends are no longer deposited.

The second thing to check is which Democrat presidential hopeful(s) each whiner is kissing up to in hopes of a post-2008 Sec-Def appointment.

Five'll get you eight all the clues necessary will turn up in the first and second things checked, but the hard cases that still don't get it should stop in at a local library or bookstore and pick up a copy of Tommy Franks' book.

The public wailing-wall antics may be relatively new, but the turf-wars and jealousy have been simmering since Rumsfeld started swinging his broom. Problem is, snake-pits aren't all that neat and easy to clean. The snakes really don't like having their comfy little fiefdoms disturbed.

Posted by: MerryJ1 on April 18, 2006 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Why would anyone assume these generals are planning a coup, are malcontents, traitors or have any dishonest or hypocritical motives?

The Bush people are all out there screaming that the generals are, "always free to give their opinions" and a bunch of other nonsense. A general who speaks out critically of the president can quickly find himself absent stars (demoted) and forced into retirement (or offered a l-o-o-o-n-n-g deployment to Greenland or a weather station in Alaska).

I personally suspect this: Bushco long ago began preparing to attack Iran. He intends to use nuclear weapons to do so over strenuous objections of his staff of general-grade officers who, having their objections ignored, cannot themselves come forward without facing prosecution, demotion, possibly incarceration or less-than-honorable discharge, and the kissing good-bye of all his benefits and retirement pay. In other words, their complete personal destruction and the inevitable harm to the general's family from these actions.

These men know that Bush is fixing to irreversibly take America over a cliff by using nukes in Iran. That's why Bush is so obviously angry over them starting to speak out. ("I'm the decider!") They STILL, even in retirement, cannot release top secret information without prosecution and the other consequences cited above.

These generals are telling us by their extraordinary conduct that America is in more peril than at any other time in the history of America. The military is under neocon control backed by the "unitary executive' powers of Bush.

Bush is going to start WWIII when he attacks Iran with nuclear weapons and the generals know it; they have war-gamed such an attack since the Gulf War and under no set of circumstances can we win. I believe they see our army defeated, our country bankrupted immediately as China dumps the dollar AND refuses to buy more of our debt, and a possible collaboration of countries that will decide a rogue America poses such a threat to the world that they will band together for a nuclear attack against us. Russia alone can destroy us. With China as an ally a well-trained 5, 10, or 20-million man strong army with sophisticated weapons could defeat any overseas forces we have and could even invade and take over America.

Bush has formed the "perfect storm" of events for Armageddon, and the destruction of America. He plans for nothing but eternal warfare so he can retain the plenary powers he now claims. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

I think we better listen to our generals.

Posted by: Biil Arnett on April 18, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

RSM:

Thank you for the kind words. I did start a blog last year, but that I tend to keep to domestic Canadian politics than American foreign and some elements of domestic policy commentary. However I have been commenting here for well over two years, indeed Scotian the alias was born here, and I have been able to offer extended commentary in the discussions here and I genuinely feel I have helped provide some useful thoughts from time to time. I like the fact there is no word limit, or if there is I have yet to hit it, unlike many other blogs. I also like the quality of many of the other commentators, even some of those I strongly disagree with on some matters like yourself. Hells, even some of the Trolletariat provides the odd useful insight, albeit rarely and usually not in the manner intended by said member.

I do think though your choice of equating the issue with gays in the military in peacetime versus after three years of a war of occupation with significant permanent disabilities as well as the famous death figure and God knows how many eventual psych disabilities this war will generate within the military branches directly involved in it was an unequal comparison in almost every respect. In other words I do not think you have made a fair nor even usable analogy here, and therefore the point you are trying to make with it fails as well. Clinton may have issued a very uncomfortable order but it did not involve the levels of risk as opposed to deployment into a combat zone, whereas that is what Bushco did and what the Generals have come out over.

I would add this last thing, I could leave many of my thoughts on these matters on my bog, but I really do find my thinking tends to improve when I am involving myself in a dynamic discussion as opposed to essentially talking to myself at the blog. I like what I find here and I think my work has been improved greatly in the time I have commented here. I know there are other longer term commenters here that think I offer some good material, and everything I write in these threads is generated by what I read in the post and the thread instead of being something cut and pasted here. I like to think that also helps offset for my admittedly lengthy writing style of these matters. That and I do remember to paragraph, even if some think they are a bit too long even so and could do with more breaks yet...:)

Posted by: Scotian on April 19, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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